04 August 2006

If I had a nickel...

Bison nickelIn 2005, the United States put a picture of North American bison on their nickel. It wasn't the first time they'd done so -- it had been on the nickel back around the 1920s. The U.S. Mint did this was done to commemorate the Lewis and Clark expedition.

I got to thinking, though, about how the bison represents just how much of an ecological disaster the settlement of North American caused. Bison, of course, used to be incredibly abundant. They numbered in the tens of millions (here). In the 1800s, they were brought to the verge of extinction. Fortunately, things were -- maybe not put right exactly, but at least outright disaster was averted for bison.

I wonder if the U.S. Mint ever thought they would be commemorating a huge ecological mistake. It would be like putting cod on Canadian coins. Or, if you wanted a social equivalent, like putting slave ship on a coin. There's another big mistake that played a significant role in American history that is no longer done. Somehow, I don't think the U.S. Mint would have put that image on a coin.

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